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Thursday, January 16, 1992 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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The Timing Was Right For Artists Belyea, Faigin

Pamela Belyea moved from New York to Seattle two and a half months ago, and she noticed that cocktail-party questions are different here.

"In New York, everybody asks you two questions. They want to know what you do for a living, and where you live. Once they know that, they know whether they want to talk to you.

"In Seattle, no one cares where you live or what kind of work you do. Everyone asks, `Why the hell did you move here?' "

For artists Belyea and her husband, Gary Faigin, it was simple. After 15 years of marriage, they had a baby, and knew it was time to move.

A nationally broadcast show on "Crack Abuse On Our Streets" had been filmed in their New York neighborhood. Rent was cheap there, and the location was convenient. But it wasn't a place to raise a family.

For 15 years they'd been promising themselves that when they had a baby, they'd leave New York. They kept their promise. Seattle got the nod because Belyea has a twin sister here, graphic designer Patricia Belyea.

The couple bring an unexpected bonus to Seattle. Faigin is a gifted teacher whose classes in life drawing, perspective, and light and shade regularly draw hundreds of students at the New York Art Students League. He wrote the comprehensive text, "The Artist's Complete Guide to Facial Expression" (Watson-Guptill Publications, 1990; $35). The Graphic Artists Guild called it an "instant classic," but Belyea says the book draws as many raves from plastic surgeons as from artists, because of its detailed illustrations of the way facial muscles are used.

The book contains such fine points as how to distinguish between false laughter and genuine laughter. Did you know that you can't have wide-open eyes when you're really laughing? You will after you peruse this book. Look again at those "laughing" models selling soft drinks and cars on TV.

Belyea and Faigin have established The Academy of Realist Art, which will present its first two-week Seattle workshop Jan. 20 at the Shoreline Historical Museum. The Intensive Portrait Drawing and Pastel Workshop will be in session five days a week, six hours a day.

Yes, folks, this is old-fashioned training in how to achieve a convincing likeness, how to do shading, and how to render an eye so that it looks alive. This is not a "hurry up and express yourself" class. A brochure is available from The Academy of Realist Art, 5004 Sixth Ave. N.W., Seattle, WA 98107. Telephone: 784-4268.

Faigin is one of a handful of instructors who still teach the 19th-century academic art curriculum. He and Belyea plan to expand The Academy of Realist Art, because they're convinced of a desire and a need for it.

Belyea and Faigin will continue to give intensive workshops in New York, and will repeat the series of three two-week workshops they've conducted for the past two years in Santa Fe, using locations such as Ghost Ranch, once home to artist Georgia O'Keeffe. Next summer, they'll use Mabel Dodge Luhan's estate in Taos, schlepping in their usual 700 pounds of easels, office equipment and other gear. "When we load up on Amtrak, we're like a traveling circus," Belyea says.

"It isn't just artists who take this training," she points out. "We've had a college professor who is a poet. We've had a blacksmith. All sorts of people. Anyone can do this," she stresses. "Some people come back year after year.

"We're not trying to put out photo realists, but people who can work in the tradition of nature. Gary uses a lot of humor, because students learn better when they're relaxed."

Give the man a down vest and a latte; it sounds as though he'll fit right in here.

Copyright (c) 1992 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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